There can be little doubt that the era of influencer marketing is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
Thanks to the success of Instagram, content creators from all over the world are finding themselves invited to the party by global marketing teams. Brands and influencers alike are reaping the rewards.
For years it seemed as if there were only one platform for powerful influencers. Instagram became synonymous with influencer marketing, with Snapchat a very distant second. Now, the meteoric rise of TikTok has significantly tipped the scales.
With users flocking to the new video platform, brands also want a piece of the TikTok action. However, they might be getting way ahead of themselves. Here are some major risks posed by TikTok’s emergent generation of influencers:
1. Uncontrolled user-generated content
Part of TikTok’s appeal is that the network is the definition of uncontrolled user-generated content. Though the TikTok platform itself controls much of what is seen, and what isn’t, content goes viral based on audiences’ reception.
On the TikTok platform, follower numbers matter far less than the immediate impact content has on an audience. Accordingly, brands looking to run a simple, safe influencer campaign on TikTok are going to have very little success. On other platforms, simple campaigns will at least ensure some level of engagement—but TikTok is a different animal.
2. Understanding the target audience
Most brands simply don’t understand the TikTok audience and will be forced to rely on emergent TikTok influencers to have a good grasp of both creativity and a brand’s core message.
As such, brands who want to adopt a TikTok influencer campaign will have to “let go” more than on any other platform, and this can be a nightmare for compliance, legal and marketing teams alike.
3. Proper disclosures
While TikTok has drawn the attention of regulators and lawmakers due to its Chinese ownership, marketing experts and advocacy groups are raising the alarm for a different reason.
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) new guidelines require that social media influencers explicitly disclose when they have financial, employment, personal and family ties to a brand that they are promoting. Often, influencers will use the “#ad” or “#sponsored” tag to do this. For videos, the FTC calls for creators to disclose sponsorship not only in the caption, but also in the content itself.
For TikTok, however, compliance with FTC guidelines might not be so easy. In the same way as the now-defunct Vine app, TikTok videos are capped at one minute, and are often set to music. This makes verbal disclosure difficult, if not impossible.
Brands, then, must be cautious of engaging in influencer marketing campaigns that might not even meet minimum legal requirements. Until the TikTok platform resolves the challenge of proper disclosures, TikTok influencer campaigns will remain a liability.
It is natural for brands to want to stay current and evolve as the world of digital marketing evolves. In the case of TikTok, however, caution is key.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.